Get Ready for Summer Tar Heels


Tar Heels, we really enjoyed blogging with you and for you this academic year. We had some awesome posts…(flashback music plays here)…

Like that time we wrote about Mission Impossible aka getting enough quality sleep as a college student.

Or that time we gave advice on how to make “the talk” less awkward…that is the talk with your healthcare provider about sexual health.

Or HEY, what about that time we challenged you to unplug and spend a little time away from the screen.

Those were great posts, and we had so many more. It’s been an awesome ride…BUT WAIT! It’s not over yet! We will be blogging all summer until we return with full force in September. We will have occasional posts with interesting content you have come to expect. Have an idea for a blog post you would like to see? Comment below!

Happy summer Tar Heels! Enjoy it (just don’t forget the sunscreen and water).


Crunch Time

This time of year always seems really busy. And while there is always more schoolwork to do (always!), April also brings with it the end of the year crunch – thinking about summer plans, looking for a job, deciding on fall classes, and planning end-of-year shenanigans. Some of these activities are fun and well worth adding to your schedule even if it makes life a bit more packed. But that does not diminish how crazed I feel this time of year.

As a graduate student myself, I was feeling particularly anxious last week with lots of decisions to be made and thoughts of summer. Talking to others about what was going on, there are those people, those calm people, who say: “Don’t worry! Everything will be fine…” (you know who you are). And while that is comforting for a minute, I usually walk away from those people and think “What?! How can they say that? They don’t know everything will work out!” Needless to say, I may be a bit of a worrier. But I am also beginning to learn that those crazy calm people might just be on to something.

Worrying about something doesn’t make the situation any clearer, nor is it productive. If you are concerned about finding a summer job (or your first post-graduation full time job), it is probably much more beneficial to write a really strong cover letter or set up an informational interview, than to sit and worry. Taking action and doing something about the issue at hand will make you feel better than just thinking about it. It will also free up a whole bunch of time for the fun things on your calendar too!

So here are some of my thoughts for being a little more like those calm people and a little less like this:



Patience This one is particularly hard for me because I like plans to be ironed out right away, but it is important to accept some uncertainties in life without getting upset. Life doesn’t always run on your timeline, and sometimes letting things go for a day or two is all that is needed for something to work itself out (even though 24-48 hours can seem like forever). You can only do so much, like emailing a prospective employer, dropping by a professor’s office, or checking to see if airline prices have dropped, but not everything is in our control and that’s okay.

Sleep I find that during stressful times I tend to sleep less, and yet, what I really need in order to be at full-functioning capacity to make decisions and get through the day is more sleep. At least 8 hours, for me. I find it much easier to tackle my daily routine and all the extra activities that are happening when I am rested.

You can’t keep it together all the time Even calm people don’t hold it together all the time. But they do release stress or anxiety in different ways. Instead of letting everything ball up inside, go for a walk, find a fun activity and laugh with friends, call mom, or give yourself permission to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for half an hour. Having some down time or time to socialize is really important, especially during the busy times. Hopefully some of the activities that are adding up are social events, like graduation ceremonies, end-of-year dinners, farewell-lunches. Think of these not as adding to your to-do list, but as fun opportunities to unwind a bit.

Express gratitude Take a minute to assess all of the people, things, and opportunities you have that you are grateful for. It may not seem like much, but doing so can actually help reduce the hormones that increase with stress and anxiety. Also flooding your mind with positive thoughts will re-train your brain to focus less on the negative. Instead of focusing on the what-ifs, maybes, and all that might come with the future, think about how much you have already accomplished.


Image Source:; Muse Source:

Eat Real Food

I have never been into diets. I find the more I think about not eating chocolate, well, the more I want to eat chocolate…or chips…or cake. Mmm cake. So indulging in a handful of chips or a few ounces of chocolate satisfies my craving more than eating everything else in sight that isn’t those things. My one mantra about what I eat is: Eat Real Food.

What does that mean? Well, I think of it as leaving out the processed stuff, the frozen salty meal stuff, and eating more food that I cook instead of food that someone in a restaurant kitchen cooks. Now trust me, it doesn’t happen all the time for me either. But instead of keeping all of those diet rules straight in my head or trying to remember how many servings of vegetables I’m supposed to have on the daily, and for that matter what a serving is, just remembering to eat real food makes it much easier to decide on food options.

So this is the point where I admit that I am a member of the Michael Pollan fan club. And while I can’t say I agree with every point he has ever made, what I have distilled down from his many books is that eating real food is the most natural and healthy way a human can eat. And that eating real food in no way has to be boring or flavorless. In fact, when prepping our own food, experimenting with new spices and techniques is all part of the fun, so here is some Pollan wisdom that I keep in mind to help guide me to being a real food eater.

Five Ingredients. Take a quick glance at the ingredient list: does your potential purchase have more than 5 ingredients? Does it have multiple ingredients that you can’t pronounce? If so, that probably means the food has additional additives. While some additives are okay because they keep our food fresh and do little harm, perishable foods (i.e. things that actually rot) are usually the best way to go.

Shop the perimeter. This was a simple and alarming realization the first time I heard it. Real food tends to be stocked around the perimeter of the grocery store: fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat and fish. Therefore, if you do the majority of your shopping around the perimeter and only venture down the aisles for an item here and there (canned beans are an easy, affordable protein option, for example), you’re doing great.

Food Commercials. Stay away from food you see in commercials. More than two thirds of food advertising is spent promoting processed foods, so if you avoid those products, that’s an easy guide to avoiding “food-like” substances and eating real food.


Eat When You’re Hungry. I know, who would have thought this needed to be said, but many of us eat when we’re bored, stressed, anxious, as a reward, or because food is just in front of us. Before you put food into your mouth, ask yourself if you are actually hungry, like in your abdominal area. Not in your head. You may just be avoiding studying for a mid-term or might actually be thirsty and need to drink some water. If you are hungry that means your body is looking for sustenance. As the old saying goes, if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry.

Eat Homemade Food. This is probably the hardest guideline, but I still like it. It doesn’t deprive you of anything, but particularly eating sweets or treats that were made at home not only naturally limits how often you eat them (think prep time and clean up) but you will also know exactly what ingredients are in them.

Source: Many of these tidbits are from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. Image from

Enhancing Your Swagger

I made a New Year’s resolution this year to stand up straighter. Okay, that’s a lie, it has been a resolution of mine probably for the past four years. But this year I am really going to do it! In fact, maybe because it’s been on my brain for, well almost half a decade now, but I actually catch myself slouching in the moment and try to adjust. And I notice I actually feel better. Standing up straight is like an instant confidence builder. So that got me thinking a lot about self-confidence, self-esteem, and if there other tiny behavior changes we can make to enhance our swagger.


What is self-esteem and self-confidence?

While it has been somewhat debated if these two concepts are really one in the same, self-esteem most often refers to how you feel about yourself overall and who you are. It’s our perception of ourselves. Self-confidence is more about how you feel about your abilities. Often if you overcome a challenging task you gain more self-confidence.

I wouldn’t say one is necessarily more important than the other and every one of us can have varying levels of both. You may gain self-confidence after landing a great job or getting through a difficult lab assignment and this increases your overall self-esteem. Or you may have low self-confidence after trying a new sport you weren’t the best at, but your self-esteem increased because you gave it your best shot and feel good about that.

Okay, so Why Does it Matter?

It matters because these are not only the ways that we see ourselves in the present, but also the beginning of recognizing how we can improve ourselves moving forward. Learning new skills and learning about yourself only makes life more exciting and makes it that much easier to try new things.

It also matters because chances are if you feel good about yourself, it is pretty difficult to feel bad about the situation around you. Increasing self-confidence and self-esteem overall can help you have a more positive outlook on life.

And last but not least, while it does amazing things just for you, it also positively changes how people perceive you. For example, I had a friend in high school who was a people magnet. People flocked to her, and while she was a funny, smart, and an overall likeable person, I never understood how she drew people to her so immediately. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized she might be one of the most self-confident people I ever met. She was so sure of herself and others sensed that and were instantly attracted to her. While I don’t care to dwell too much on what others think of me, I do think it is important that we are self-aware and understand the vibes we give to other people.


How do I get on this path to self-knowledge and popularity?

Okay, first things first. Working on your confidence and self-esteem may not lead you to fame (Let’s face it, there are a lot of celebrities who could look inwards now and then too). But I do hope it will bring you a little more happiness in your day and get you thinking more positively, and who doesn’t need a little more positivity in their life?

Second, this is not a one shot, over-night deal. Improving and learning about yourself is a lifelong event. But there are some actions that you take and habits you can build that will point you in the right direction.

Compliment yourself once a day. This may seem weird, and you don’t have to do it out loud, but instead of looking in the mirror and saying to yourself all those bad things (no I’m not going to list them) that we tell ourselves every day, practice saying something positive. It can be a physical compliment, a congratulations on getting a job or acing a test, or even for just raising your hand in class that day and making a stellar comment.

Dress in a way that makes you feel good. This doesn’t mean you have to go buy a new wardrobe. Take the time to put yourself together before going out and get to know what type of clothing fits your body. I have a few items that definitely cost less than $30 each and every time I put them on I feel professional, smart, and classy. Also without fail I always get a few compliments in these items-which could be less about the clothing itself and just that I feel a little more confident in them so I stand a little taller.

Set a challenge for yourself that you can achieve. I like to do this with an activity that I have wanted to do for awhile and haven’t gotten around to. Finally crossing it off my list makes me feel twice as good about myself. Break down the challenge into tiny chunks (put it on your calendar, make a reservation/appointment, gather the materials you need, find a buddy), whatever you need to do to make it as easy as possible for yourself to complete.

Try a Power Pose. All you need is your body, privacy, and two minutes. Studies have shown that taking a power pose (see superman above or think of a CEO with her feet up on her desk) increases testosterone, the dominance hormone, and actually makes people seem more confident, enthusiastic, captivating, and comfortable. While standing up straighter is a start, practice an actual power pose before going into a stressful situation or a long day, it might just be the boost you need to actually becoming a more confident person. For more, check out this TedTalk.

What does swagger mean to you? What do you do to feel good about yourself? Comment below!

Sources: Counseling Center at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;; Psychology Today

The Truth About Energy Drinks

By: Erika von Vajna, PharmD Candidate

It seems like a quick fix
When we think about the upcoming semester, undoubtedly many of us think about long days and late nights at the library. Many times this is accompanied by strategies to maintain our stamina and motivation, including the use of energy drinks. It has been reported that among college-aged students, between 34% and 51% of us consume energy drinks on a regular basis. Many of us know that the main ingredient in energy drinks is caffeine, but many also contain additional stimulant drugs like taurine and guarana. Several also contain a variety of vitamins, herbal supplements, and sugar or sweeteners. Marketed benefits of energy drinks include quick onset of increased energy, concentration and focus, as well as weight loss and improved athletic performance. Energy drink companies endorse catchy slogans suggesting “hours of energy,” “giving you wings,” and “unleashing the beast.”


While all of this seems great, especially for sleep-deprived college students, it’s important to think about some of the side effects of the ingredients in these drinks that might not make them so appealing and could potentially be extremely harmful.

The Science
A recent US report found that there has been an almost doubling of energy drink-related emergency room visits between 2007 and 2011. Many of these side effects stem from the high amounts of sugar and caffeine as well as many of the other caffeine-like substances found in many of these products. Specifically, high doses of caffeine have been associated with restlessness, anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, headaches, dehydration and increased heart rate and palpitations. More serious adverse events that have been associated with the consumption of energy drinks include seizures, mania, stroke, and sudden death. The potentially lethal cardiac effects that have been reported were commonly associated with those patients who had underlying cardiac disease. Therefore, it is especially important for these individuals to avoid or at least limit the use of these drinks. Many of the more serious adverse effects were found at caffeine dosages greater than 400 mg per day, and consumption of 5-10 grams can be lethal.

The following shows the caffeine content (mg) for common beverages (oz):
Espresso, 1 oz, 30-90 mg
Brewed Coffee, 8 oz, 102-200 mg
Brewed Tea, 8 oz, 40-120 mg
Mountain Dew, 12 oz, 54 mg
Dr. Pepper, 12 oz, 42-44 mg
Coca Cola, 12 oz, 35-47 mg
Pepsi, 12 oz, 36-38 mg

And here is the caffeine content (mg) for common energy drinks (oz):
5-Hour Energy Shot, 2 oz, 200 mg
Full Throttle, 8 oz, 100 mg
Monster, 8 oz, 80 mg
Rockstar, 8 oz, 80 mg
Redbull, 8.3 oz, 80 mg

Many of the energy drinks we commonly use also contain a number of additional ingredients. Although not a comprehensive list, below are some of the reported side effects of those ingredients. Many of these side effects are more pronounced at higher concentrations of these ingredients and each individual will respond differently. Also, because the dosages and caffeine content of these are not required on the product labeling, it’s important to be cautious when ingesting these beverages.

Niacin (Vitamin B3): Flushing, itching, heart palpitations, insomnia, liver toxicity
Pyridoxine: Headache, nausea, tingling/numbness in arms or legs
Cyanocobalamin: Anxiety, dizziness, headache, diarrhea
Riboflavin: Discoloration of urine
Taurine: Bleeding, low blood pressure, high cholesterol
Citicoline: Nausea, diarrhea, rash, headache, insomnia
Guarana: Hear palpitations, irritability, anxiety, headache, dehydration

Regulation (or lack of)
Regulation of energy drinks differs from that of traditional caffeinated beverages, such as cola and coffee. In the United States, these products are classified as dietary supplements and as such are tested and regulated differently than conventional foods or drugs. The FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. This means that manufacturers of these products do not necessarily need to register their products with the FDA (although they may choose to) or get FDA approval prior to producing or selling these supplements.

Because of these regulations, manufacturers also do not need to report dosages on the package labeling. This is in contrast to the manufacturing of foods and beverages. Beverages, such as Coca Cola®, are not classified as dietary supplements and therefore must be registered with the FDA and must comply with strict manufacturing requirements including proper labeling with accurate dosing. The FDA does have the authority to impose certain restrictions on beverages. For example, a 12 fl.oz. can of Coca Cola® has an FDA imposed caffeine limit of 71 mg.

Read the label
Energy drinks are consumed by millions of people worldwide and continue to be an important supplement used by many college-aged students especially around exam time. Although these drinks seem to have many beneficial effects, it is important to remember the many adverse side effects associated with their use. Always read the labeling on any product and be informed of the ingredients and potential interactions with other medications as well as their side effects and keep in mind that because they are not as strictly tested or regulated as prescription medications, dosages may vary by batch. In general, the consumption of energy drinks should be avoided if at all possible. If you’re really in need of that extra boost, try grabbing a quick nap instead!

For more on energy drinks.

1. Velazquez CE, et al. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Jun 1;123(1-3):167-72
2. Seifert SM, et al. Pediatrics. 2011 March; 127(3): 511–528.
3. Harland BF. Caffeine and nutrition. Nutrition 2000; 16:522.
4. Juliano LM, Griffiths RR. Caffeine. In: Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, Fourth Edition, Lowinson JH, Ruiz P, 
Millman RB, Langrod JG (Eds), Baltimore: Lippincott Williams, & Wilkins, 2005.
5. NaturalStandard. 2013.
6. FDA. Q&A on Dietary Supplements. 2013.
7. SAMHSA: Drug Abuse Warning Network. Update on Emergency Department Visits Involving Energy Drinks: A Continuing 
Public Health Concern. 2013 January.

Let’s talk about STRESS

You’ve probably heard it said already today or thought it to yourself: “I’m so stressed out.” Stress is that all-consuming feeling of being anxious, tired, overwhelmed, emotionally run-down, and physically tense. It’s not pleasant, and yet a lot of us live with stress on a daily basis. Especially as students, with constant assignments and deadlines, it’s easy to feel stressed out. So if this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. In fact, at Carolina stress is one of the most common health concerns reported. So let’s talk about it! By learning about what happens to the body as it reacts to stress, we can identify some helpful ways to cope with stress and mitigate some of the negative consequences of carrying around too much day-to-day stress.

stressed woman

What is Stress?
What we often call “stress” is an automatic response from our body kicking into high gear. This automatic response stems from our ancient ancestors as a way to protect themselves from predators and harm. You might have heard this called the “fight or flight” response in Psych 101. Faced with danger the body releases hormones that may elevate heart rate, increase blood pressure, and boost energy in order to prepare you to deal with the situation. While we have little fear of getting attacked by animals on a daily basis now, this reaction still occurs when we are faced with every day challenges, such as meeting an assignment deadline, taking a test, or going on an audition or try out. This is what we call stress.

While some stress is good and can actually be motivating, remember everything in moderation. Ongoing or chronic stress can be harmful to your wellbeing.

Why does Stress Hurt?
It’s exhausting to have your body on high alert. You may have noticed physical symptoms of stress such as fatigue, stomach aches, headaches, or muscle tension. Other symptoms may include catching a cold often, eating too much or too little, or being nauseous or dizzy. And you may have also felt more emotional, easier to anger, or unhappy. These are all signs of the body trying to tell you that you are thinking too much. While it is a natural response to get amped up about an upcoming event that you are nervous or unsure about, once that event is over (your paper submitted or you make the team) your body expects to return to its normal state. However, when we are constantly overloaded with “flight or fight” situations the body remains in a continuous elevated state. This produces unpleasant symptoms in the short run, but can also produce harmful effects long term.

Chronic stress, or when stress starts interfering with your ability to live a productive life, can have long-term health implications. People with chronic stress are more likely to develop certain diseases later in life such as coronary disease; they tend to have persistent sleep problems; are more likely to be depressed; and tend to have a shorter lifespan. Ok, wait a minute, let’s not stress about this yet!

What Can I Do?
So now we know what our body is trying to tell us and how we can better recognize the symptoms. But a lot of us already know constant stress is just down right not fun. So if we are feeling too stressed we need to change some things in order to help our bodies and minds better respond to the situations around us.


Identify the Cause. This may be harder than you think and it may be a combination of things. But if you can pinpoint why you are feeling stressed you can make a plan to better address it. Making a plan may include setting reasonable expectations about the outcome, breaking down an assignment into smaller tasks, or better prioritizing items with looming deadlines.
Lean on Supportive Relationships. While some relationships may be a source of stress, reach out to people who will listen and who care about you. You may want to talk through your stress trigger and have your friend help you through some options to feeling less overwhelmed. Or you may just need to call mom and talk about anything else besides what is stressing you out.
Rest Your Mind. When you are tired you are more likely to get stressed because your brain loses the capability to think clearly and function with good judgment. As we know, it’s easier said than done, but 7-8 hours of sleep may just be the best thing you can do for your body. Check out this blog post for ways to get more rest.
Get Creative. Color (yes even in a coloring book), write just for yourself, put on music you enjoy and haven’t listened to in a while, dance, or hang out with a furry friend. These are all fun and unique ways to relieve stress and help put life back in perspective. For more ways to get creative about managing stress, check this out.
Get Help. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need someone to talk to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is a great resource. They can help you assess what is causing your stress and work with you to find a plan to manage it. They see hundreds of students each year with stress related concerns. All first-time appointments may walk in during 9-12 and 1-4 Monday through Friday. More information about CAPS.

For other stress tips, check out these blog posts here and here.

Information compiled from the American Psychological Association and Images: and

Take Care…of Your Toothbrush

We have few relationships more intimate than with our toothbrush. Think about it, you put this instrument in your mouth at least twice a day, take it with you on long trips, and may even carry it with you throughout the day if you’re a loyal coffee/tea drinker. Your toothbrush is a loyal companion that helps take care of your oral health, but have you ever thought about what you could do to take care of it? Here are four ways you can show your toothbrush (and your oral health) some love:

Switch It Up Dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or when the bristles begin to fray. A worn toothbrush is not as effective at removing plaque and bacteria. It also won’t be as comfortable to use!

Keep It Clean Make sure you thoroughly rinse your toothbrush after every use. Any buildup on the brush can cause bacteria to spread.

Out of Sight Your toothbrush should ideally be stored upright when not in use. Also, if possible it should be placed in a cabinet or storage unit so that it is not exposed to germs in the bathroom. If you keep a plastic cover on your toothbrush, make sure the brush is fully dried before capping or you can get caps that have holes in them to let the brush breathe. A wet toothbrush in a closed environment becomes a petri dish that can harbor bacteria.

Keep It to Yourself While it might be obvious not to share toothbrushes, you also don’t want to keep your brush near others. Storing brushes too close where they might accidentally touch will easily spread germs among housemates.

Now that you know the basics…

Has it been 6 months or more since your last dental checkup? Check out UNC Dentistry to register for an appointment. The school offers competitive pricing for those without dental insurance.

Take a break Coloring has been found to reduce stress! Check out this awesome toothbrush coloring page and take a minute to chill out.

Information compiled from the American Dentistry Association.

7 Steps to a Healthier YOU!

We’re a few weeks into the semester Tar Heels and that means you may have settled into a routine: found your favorite fitness class, scoped out the best place to study and make a bee-line to the veggies in the café before filling up on other foods. Or you may be a little overwhelmed: classes are starting to pile on more work, there is little time to balance socializing AND sleeping and you have found the 24-hour Wendy’s to just be too darn convenient.

Whether you are on a roll or are feeling crazed, or you fluctuate day to day, know that there are at least a thousand other students like you going through the same ups and downs. Including me!

So let’s try this together. Here are seven steps you can take to make your life a little more balanced along with resources on campus that can help you get there. Maybe you have already checked some of these off and in that case, you can be pretty proud of yourself! I myself will be trying to get more sleep for the rest of the semester. What steps are you going to take towards a healthier you?

7 steps

Eat Healthy Try filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. This will help you towards a more balanced diet. Would you like to talk through a more tailored nutrition plan? Call Campus Health Services at 919-966-2281 to make an appointment for nutrition counseling.

Get Active Start with 10 minutes of physical activity at a time. This may not seem like much, but every minute counts. And remember, working out doesn’t have to be a chore. Find an exercise you like, such as swimming or bike riding. Or meet someone new at a fun fitness event at Campus Recreation.

Stay Safe Whether you live in a dorm room or an apartment, store your medications in a safe place where others will not be tempted by them. Your medicine was purchased or prescribed for your symptoms only. Have old medications that you don’t use or have passed the expiration date? Bring them to Campus Health Pharmacy to dispose of safely!

Protect Yourself From the Flu The fall is upon us and soon everyone will be sniffling and sneezing their way into winter. The flu is one trend you don’t want to be a part of. Campus Health Services will be administering flu vaccinations (FREE with student health insurance) at drop-in clinics, the pharmacy, or call 919-966-2281 for an appointment.

Quit Smoking Make a list of the reasons why you should quit. Seeing these reasons laid out is an incentive for many smokers. And remember if you don’t make it the first try, each quit attempt is practice for the time when you do quit for good. Both Campus Health physicians and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can provide prescriptions to help quit or provide behavioral modifications. To make a CAPS appointment, call 919-966-3658. The Healthy Heels Shoppe also sells cessation aids, such as nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches, with pharmacists available to walk you through your options.

Manage Stress Plan ahead of time to manage your stress levels. Whether for you that means keeping a daily list of to dos, a color coded calendar, or getting your bag organized with all the notebooks and readings you need the night before, find what helps you. If you need someone to talk through some of your stressors, call CAPS at 919-966-3658.

Get Enough Sleep Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Going to bed even 15 minutes earlier and doing something you enjoy such as reading for pleasure or even deep breathing will help relax you to sleep. Try to put all electronics away half an hour before you go to bed so your brain can wind down. (Also, don’t discount the power of napping!) Need to speak with someone about your trouble sleeping? Make an appointment with a Campus Health Services doctor at 919-966-2281 or a CAPS counselor at 919-966-3658 to help you get a better night’s rest.

For more advice making small changes to achieve a healthier you take this Everyday Healthy Living Quiz.

*Some content for this post was taken from, a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.